Asian Values, Asian Democracy

Sim, Soek-Fang. 2002. Asian Values, Asian Democracy. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Asian Values, Asian Democracy)
MED_thesis_SimS_2002.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (34MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

“Asian values” is more than the articulation of cultural difference; its propositions of “Asian Capitalism” and “Asian Democracy” indicate a project to legitimise particular economic and political structures that have come under challenge. While capitalism and authoritarianism may have elective affinity, the “end of history” thesis argues that contradictions in late-capitalism would threaten authoritarianism and propel societies towards liberal democracy. Singapore’s “Asian Democracy” is significant in its ability to detour at history’s end and to re-amalgamate authoritarianism with (late)-capitalism.

“Asian Values,” by emphasising communitarianism and consensus over conflict, creates a normative centre that guides media policy, civil society and inter-personal interactions. Good Asian citizens value prosperity over Western dreams (of non-consensual democracy). They also subordinate personal whims to the good of the community - the “silent (Asian) majority.” By allowing ideological pluralism without fragmentation, “Asian values” de-legitimises dissent and legitimises authoritarianism.

The Singapore one-party government’s hegemony is based less on belief than on rhetorical compliance, which is produced through a combination of consent, consensus and coercion. Coercion (authoritarianism) is tolerated or consented to upon a consensus that it is worthwhile to trade freedom for prosperity and that there are no viable alternatives. Fuelled by personal desire for prosperity and pressurised by social expectations, citizens privatise/subordinate their dissent, producing an aura of public support for the government. This appearance of ideological unity crucially accords one-party governments the legitimacy to claim to represent the nation and deny multi-party representation.

Despite the importance of economic legitimacy to the Singapore government, an economic crisis is not necessarily an ideological/hegemonic crisis because it is the hope rather than the reality of prosperity that sustains its hegemony. This relative autonomy from economic conditions, together with its anti-pluralism nature and its claim of cultural legitimacy makes “Asian Values” a superlative ideology for the evolution of government authoritarianism into soft/popular authoritarianism, thereby enabling Asian Democracy to carve a new trajectory and spark off a resurgent of authoritarianism.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Asian values, Asian democracy, authoritarianism, capitalism, Singapore government, one-party government, legitimisation of authority

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Jul 2020 11:25

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:47


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)